Gen. Bajwa's visit may presage new chapter in resolving Afghanistan conflict, says Mattis

ANI | Updated: Oct 05, 2017 18:14 IST

Washington [United States], Oct. 5 (ANI) United States Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's recent visit to Kabul presages a new chapter' in ending the Afghan conflict.

"Right now, based on a very recent visit by the Chief of Army Staff from Pakistan, there is actually optimism here (Washington) and in Kabul that his visit presages a new chapter," Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Secretary Mattis and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford appeared before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to brief lawmakers on the situation in Afghanistan.

Appearing before two congressional panels, Secretary Mattis revealed that the United States had chalked out a plan for reengaging Pakistan for resolving bilateral differences.

"We were encouraged, just this week, with General Bajwa's visit to Afghanistan.He had very good meetings with the Afghan leadership. Our leadership was engaged in those meetings as well," said General Dunford.

Mattis also informed that the US assistant secretaries and national security staff would visit Pakistan soon for talks on how to reengage Islamabad in efforts to eradicate terrorism. And, these visits will be followed by visits by himself and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

General Bajwa met Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Sunday and discussed matters of regional security, including cooperation against common threats, coordination between respective counter-terrorism campaigns to restrict space for non-state actors, intelligence sharing, trade and commerce, and people-to-people contacts

Mattis had earlier warned Pakistan of global "diplomatic isolation" and losing its non-NATO ally status if it failed to take action against safe havens to terrorists on its soil.

"I would like to think we will be successful," but having said that, the United States "has an enormously powerful number of options" if not, said Mattis.

"I think that right now, with the growing consensus against terrorism, they'll find themselves diplomatically isolated, they'll find themselves economically in increasing trouble, as countries that are damaged by this terrorism coming out of there say enough is enough and take steps," he said.

Mattis told the committee that the United States would try "one more time" to work with Pakistan on the Afghanistan front before President Donald Trump turned to "other options" to address Islamabad's alleged support for militant groups.

General Dunford has allegedly accused Pakistan intelligence agencies of having links with certain terrorist groups and urged them to sever those ties.

"I think it's clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups," said the general while responding to a question from Senator Joe Donnelly.

Gen. Dunford said he believed a multilateral approach might help in bringing changes in Pakistan's behaviour. Secretary Mattis backed this claim, acknowledging that Pakistani intelligence agencies were helping the Taliban.

"We have seen havens left to the terrorists' own devices. We have seen the government of Pakistan come down on terrorism, while ISI appears to run its own foreign policy," he said.

Mattis said the Trump administration was very clear and firm in what it expected from Pakistan and was using all options to bring about that change.(ANI)